I am normally an optimistic person, but I'm feeling decidedly pessimistic about the future of our country right now. As this year draws to a close I pause to reflect on what has been and what is to become. Unfortunately both of those things seem to meld into one and this is the source of my pessimism.
I've been thinking among other things about who we are as a people, our culture and characteristics. It is fair to say we are a less than harmonious society. We've fought some epic battles and campaigns, fought off PTOers, fought against colonisers and imperialists for most of our history. But sometimes it seems that our most bitter and fiercely-fought battles are reserved for each other rather than a common enemy.
In RL Australia (where most of our population lives) we are an egalitarian and relatively classless society with a strong sense of justice and fair play. We have a somewhat bizarre combination of respect for the rule of law and social norms combined with a healthy disrespect for authority. We do not tolerate corruption and elitism.
In RL we have a two-party Westminster political system characterised in recent years by acrimony and mudslinging. Our eAus political system is a bastardised melding of our RL institutions with eRep's presidential system. The result is a system that has been explicitly designed to be oppositional - the senate (an out-of-game legislative body formed from the congress) provides a check on the authority of the president and their cabinet. Combine this with a player base that has little respect for authority and it is very evident that we do not have a 'command and control' political system, anyone can (and often does) challenge decisions.
The happy face of Australian politics
Our political system is in my opinion designed to maximise potential for internal disputes and minimise the ability to make hard decisions quickly. In RL this is possibly a virtue, in a fast-moving game it causes problems.
As a large proportion of our longer-serving and active citizens have at one time or another been involved in politics, the intense and bitter argument between rival politicians has formed cracks and fissures that spill over into everyday life. Debates quickly degenerate into personal vendettas (sometimes real, sometimes imagined) that the average citizen (and particularly the newer citizen) just can't follow without knowledge of the old fault lines that exist in our factionalised and tribal social order.
Add to the mix the heavy reliance on out-of-game forums and IRC to manage the business of the nation and we have another opportunity for dispute. Who gets to be moderator, who gets moderated, how are they selected and challenged etc etc. eRep does not provide sufficient in-game communication tools so IRC and Forums are both necessary, but their management simply provides a proxy target for those who are discontented with the social order and feel marginalised and victimised.
People don't join a game to lose. Unfortunately due to eAus' poor geopolitical situation we have spent most of our time as a nation losing. Our history is testament to the fact that a nation in a remote corner of the world surrounded by unfriendly neighbours is a hopeless cause.
But the depth of opportunity to look for wins in political gameplay have provided a great substitute for a nation disempowered and hopelessly outnumbered. To some degree we may have substituted our ambition for the nation with our ambition for ourselves, our party, our faction. This is my subjective opinion but it seems to me the times we have seen most unity of purpose have been those times when we are faced with PTO, ie those times when our POLITICAL system has been under threat.
All of this, the RL influence and our e-history have created a society that is argumentative and combative at best, spiteful and vitriolic at worst.
I'm going to come right out and say that we can't change this, at least not quickly. Maybe we shouldn't, why try to change who you are? We just need to make the best of it. We can tinker around the edges and make marginal improvements over time. I believe we need to focus on two things:
1. New citizen support - the greatest single detrimental effect of our deeply factional political system and society is that it marginalises and disillusions younger citizens. We must find better means to induct people, explain how things work outside of game mechanics, and mitigate the initially negative effect of the societal wall.
2. New goals - it only takes a few minutes a day to play the game. Many of us spend more than a few minutes playing and the devil makes work for idle hands. We need some goals to work towards so that some of that energy can be spent in more constructive ways.
I still feel pessimistic, if you've read this far I'm sorry for the quality and general tone of the article. I need to get this out of my system so that I can start the new year with it all behind me.
What is this?You are reading an article written by a citizen of eRepublik, an immersive multiplayer strategy game based on real life countries. Create your own character and help your country achieve its glory while establishing yourself as a war hero, renowned publisher or finance guru.